Africa Media Review for December 22, 2021

A Tense Libya Delays Its Presidential Election
Libya’s Parliament declared that it would be impossible to hold a long-awaited presidential election scheduled for Friday on time, a delay that risked further destabilizing the oil-rich North African nation, which has been troubled by division and violence in the decade since the dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was toppled and killed in a revolution. The announcement on Wednesday by the president of the parliamentary election committee, Hadi Al-Sagheer, confirmed what virtually everyone in Libya already knew. Nonetheless, it threatened to take political tensions to a boil from a simmer. … Western diplomats, along with many Libyans, had thrown their support behind this election, viewing it as a crucial step toward ending nearly a decade of civil conflict and reunifying a country still largely split in two. The election of a new president is regarded as the key to beginning the evictions of the armies of foreign fighters who were brought in over recent years to wage civil conflicts, to starting the consolidation of Libya’s multiple militias into a single national army, and to reuniting fractured government institutions. The New York Times

Sudan: Sexual Violence as a Weapon of Massive Repression in Khartoum
In Sudan, reports of serious sexual violence and the use of live ammunition against protesters at the weekend must be investigated immediately, the UN rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday. The allegations surfaced after demonstrations in Khartoum on Sunday, where tens of thousands had massed to mark the third anniversary of protests that led to the overthrow of long-time President Omar al-Bashir, in April 2019. Demonstrators who made for the presidential palace were also protesting against October’s military coup and the political agreement signed later on 21 November, said UN rights office spokesperson Liz Throssell. Speaking in Geneva, she said that security forces are alleged to have raped or gang raped 13 women and girls. Two protesters also died after being shot and 300 others were injured, she said. Some were hit by live ammunition or tear gas canisters or beaten by security forces, while others suffered breathing difficulties after inhaling tear gas. “With further protests planned for this weekend and the weeks ahead, it is crucial that security forces guarantee and protect the right to peaceful assembly and act with full respect for international laws and standards regulating the use of force,” Ms. Throssell insisted. UN News

Militias Mobilise in Libya Capital amid Tensions over Election
Armed groups deployed in the suburbs of Libya’s capital on Tuesday, sparking security fears ahead of an expected delay of presidential elections, as three key candidates met in the country’s east. … Images posted online early Tuesday showed a tank and pickup trucks mounted with machine guns in Fornaj district, where some roads were blocked by armed men. Schools and the University of Tripoli closed as a precaution but there were no firefights, residents told AFP. It was the latest in a string of security incidents ahead of scheduled elections that have been undermined by divisions over their legal framework and the candidacies of several divisive figures. One of the most controversial is eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who from 2019 waged a year-long but ultimately failed campaign to seize Tripoli by force. … The United Nations’ Libya mission UNSMIL voiced concern over the armed deployments, warning such mobilisation “creates tensions and increases the risk of clashes that could spiral into conflict.” In a statement, it called for the resolution of any disagreements through dialogue, “particularly at this stage when the country is navigating through a difficult and complex electoral process that should usher in a peaceful transition.” AFP

UN: Over 160 Migrants Drown in Shipwrecks off Libya
More than 160 migrants drowned in two separate shipwrecks off Libya over past week, a United Nations migration official said Tuesday. The fatalities were the latest disasters in the Mediterranean Sea involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, said at least 102 migrants were reported dead after their wooden boat capsized off Libya on Friday. At least eight others were rescued and returned to shore, she said. The second shipwreck took place Saturday. The Libyan coast guard retrieved at least 62 bodies of migrants, Msehli said. The same day, the coast guard intercepted a third wooden boat with at least 210 migrants on board, she said. The new deaths have brought the tally in the central Mediterranean route to around 1,500 migrants drowned this year, Msehli said. Recent months have seen a surge in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya as authorities accelerated their deadly crackdown on migrants in the capital of Tripoli. AP

West African Bloc Wants Progress on Mali’s Post-Coup Election Date, Says Envoy
West African regional bloc ECOWAS hopes Mali’s transitional authorities will finalise a date for elections before the end of this year, its envoy, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said on Tuesday after meeting interim leaders. An ECOWAS delegation visited the Malian capital, Bamako, to assess progress towards promised elections following a military coup in August 2020. The bloc has threatened additional economic sanctions if no concrete progress is made by the end of December. Jonathan said the delegation wanted to pass along the bloc’s hope that “by the end of the year, we will have a whole schedule in place for the organisation of elections.” … Mali’s transition is seen as a key test of West African leaders’ commitment to protect democracy against a return to the frequent putsches that earned the region its reputation as a “coup belt” in the decades after colonialism ended. Reuters

A Truth Commission Was the Easy Part. Now, Gambia Seeks Reconciliation.
… The Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) put in place by President Adama Barrow, who ousted Mr. Jammeh at the ballot box in 2016, has collected hundreds of testimonies from victims like Ms. Ndeye and perpetrators. Broadcasts of the proceedings commanded rapt attention at restaurants and in corner stores – wherever people could access a television or radio. The commission’s final report was submitted to the government in November and is due to be made public by the end of the year. However, the hardest part in Gambia’s post-Jammeh era is yet to come: moving forward with – and defining – justice, reconciliation, and healing. It’s a tall order, namely when it comes to how and whom to prosecute, and whether that will include Mr. Jammeh. … At the same time, truth commissions across the continent and world have infamously issued final reports that sit in boxes collecting dust, with no government follow-up. Truth commissions, Ms. Dufka says, “are not designed nor should be made to bear the burden of delivering justice, which requires the strengthening of rule of law institutions and trials for those who bear the greatest responsibility for mass atrocity.” … Those fearing the worst in Gambia, though, point to Liberia. If the government there had followed recommendations from the country’s truth commission, a war crimes court would have formed over a decade ago to address two civil wars stretching from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. Instead, rebel leaders accused of atrocities sit in Congress in Monrovia. The Christian Science Monitor

Benin Opposition Leaders Will Not Appeal Jail Terms – Lawyers
Two Benin opposition politicians sentenced this month to long jail terms will not appeal their sentences, their legal teams said on Monday. On December 14, academic Joel Aivo was jailed for 10 years for “plotting against the state.” Four days later, Reckya Madougou, a former justice minister, received 20 years for “terrorism.” Both trials lasted less than two days. Both took place at the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court (CRIET), set up in 2016 ostensibly to end the impunity of Benin’s political elite, but which critics charge is being used by President Patrice Talon to snuff out dissent. “The lack of independence of the CRIET and the lack of fairness of the judges motivated” the decision not to appeal, Madougou’s lawyer Renaud Agbodjo told AFP. The cases raise “grave concerns about political interference in Benin’s criminal justice system,” the US State Department has said in a statement, expressing alarm at the “systematic targeting” of opposition figures. “Demonstrating… that the judicial system will not be used for political purposes is essential to restoring Benin’s former reputation as a regional leader in democratic governance and rule of law,” said spokesman Ned Price. Already under fire over the erosion of democracy and electoral irregularities, fears are mounting Talon, a former cotton magnate first elected in 2016, is now undermining the rule of law and independence of the country’s courts. AFP

Nigeria Air Strikes ‘Kill More than 100 Jihadists’
More than 100 jihadist fighters were killed in air strikes by the Nigerian military last week, security sources and residents told AFP on Tuesday. Fighter jets bombarded three Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) camps in Nigeria’s northeast on Monday last week, killing more than 100 fighters including several senior commanders, the sources said. ISWAP has been consolidating its power in the Lake Chad region since the death in May of the leader of rival Islamist group Boko Haram during infighting between the two groups earlier this year. ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016 and has since become the dominant jihadist force in Nigeria’s conflict, frequently striking at troops in an insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 since it began in 2009. … A local fisherman in the region said the militant group suffered huge casualties. “They have been hard hit by the recent attacks. They buried the more than 100 dead bodies in Tudun Giginya village, which took them almost the whole day,” said the fisherman, who asked not to be identified for personal safety. AFP

UN Security Council Extends Amisom Stay in Somalia by 3 Months
The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday voted to extend the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) by three months to allow Mogadishu to negotiate an agreeable future of the continental force. The decision reached under Resolution 2614/2021 was adopted on Tuesday night, granting the peacekeeping force the needed certainty as Somalia and the African Union haggle on whether to completely withdraw or rebrand to an AU-UN hybrid mission. … The resolution to add three months to Amisom, whose mandate was to expire on December 31, is meant to avoid a vacuum. It means that Amisom will continue with its operations against the Al-Shabaab militant group as it awaits a formal deal between Mogadishu and the African Union on whether the Mission should exit, restructure or be reorganised as a hybrid AU-UN force with civilian components. The EastAfrican

Morocco Opens First Military Base with Chinese Air Defense
Morocco has formally inaugurated its first military base with a Chinese long-range air defense system near the town of Sidi Yahia el Gharb, according to a report by military news site Defensa. Extending over an area of 420,000 square meters, the military base includes administrative headquarters, repair hangars, and barracks. The facility features a Chinese FD-2000B air defense system the Moroccan government acquired in mid-2021. The base also has a Sky Dragon 50 medium-range anti-aircraft system acquired from China in 2017. An export version of the HQ-9B, the FD-2000B long-range air defense system is designed to intercept airborne and ballistic targets at a range up to 250 kilometers (155 miles). The system can intercept targets at an altitude of 30 kilometers (18 miles) and has a radar detection range of 280 kilometers (173 miles). Developed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the FD-2000B operates as part of a multi-layered air defense network Morocco is building using Chinese systems. According to Defensa, the installation of the FD-2000B is considered a “major step” since the North African nation has relied mostly on air force fighters for air defense. The Defense Post

Seventy-Five African Journalists Imprisoned for Doing Their Jobs
One in every four journalists currently in prison for their work is African. Egypt, where 25 journalists are in jail, is the worst media repressor on the continent, followed by Eritrea (16), but the “biggest setback for media freedom came in Ethiopia,” says a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based watchdog. Across Africa, 12 governments sent 75 journalists to jail this year ― or kept them there. That is how many were in jail on 1 December, when the press freedom watchdog did the census, and does not include those who had been jailed but were subsequently released. In Ethiopia, where nine journalists are in jail, the repression is tied to the emergency laws imposed over the civil war in Tigray. Other countries, like Rwanda (seven) and Cameroon (six), are continuing a years-long pattern. In each of the censuses CPJ has done since 2018, Rwanda and Cameroon have had at least 11 imprisoned journalists between them. … Across the world, CPJ counted 293 journalists behind bars, with China (50), being the top repressor. The Continent

Daily Maverick’s Africa Person of the Year: Dr Emmanuel Taban; Runners-Up: Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema & Dr John Nkengasong
Dr Emmanuel Taban is our Africa Person of the Year because he has achieved so much and travelled such a great distance – literally and figuratively – to get there. He was born in a mud hut in Juba, later to become the capital of independent South Sudan, but then still part of Sudan. In 1994, aged 16, he was abducted by Sudanese troops and tortured because they thought he was a rebel spy. He escaped from them, on foot, intending to go home, but took a wrong turn and instead walked into Eritrea. … After that he largely flew solo, winning bursaries to continue his postgraduate studies and eventually in 2018 to become a pulmonologist – a lung specialist – at the University of the Witwatersrand. When Covid-19 struck in early 2020 his special skills were in high demand and he fought on the frontline against the disease, contracting it himself. And he did pioneering work, particularly in discovering a new way of treating very ill hypoxaemic Covid-19 patients (those suffering from low oxygen levels in their blood), many of whom were dying. … Hakainde Hichilema is a runner-up for Africa Person of the Year for his dogged determination and political skills in unseating incumbent Zambian president Edgar Lungu in the Zambian elections this year. And for his promise to be a “servant and not a master of the people” in restoring the country to good governance and real democracy. Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones